Statement in support of PEN Belarus
We stand in solidarity with colleagues from the Belarusian PEN and strongly condemn crackdowns and repressions exercised by the Belarusian self-proclaimed government against human rights organizations.
PEN Belarus is one of the country’s most influential and noticeable human rights organizations. The PEN Center in Minsk provides legal assistance to detained writers, journalists and artists, records violations of copyrights, and reports for Belarusian and foreign audience on how the regime of self-proclaimed president Alexander Lukashenko abridges freedom of speech and expression in Belarus.
Namely, PEN Belarus prepares and distributes an online weekly titled “Belarusian Culture in Socio-political Crisis,” wherein the English-speaking audience may find out about the arrested authors and look through semiannual monitoring of rights abuse against Belarusian cultural workers. The latest PEN Belarus Monitoring informs that for the past six months 621 cases of human and cultural rights violations against artists have been recorded.
Dozens of authors from PEN Belarus are among the ranks of those who within the past year have suffered arrest and torture, as well as those who are still imprisoned in Belarusian prisons. In recent months, the criminal authorities have come up with new ways of intimidation and exerting pressure on the organization. In June, the Ministry of Justice began an inspection of the Belarusian PEN. Failing to identify violations in activities of the organization, on July 14 the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption visited the PEN Belarus office with a search warrant at its legal address. Since during the pandemic PEN in Minsk works remotely, security officers searched and seized equipment of another organization registered at the same address.
On July 14, another incident occurred attesting once again that even following the outrageous arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich, Lukashenko’s criminal regime unceasingly provokes the most well-known Belarusians – that day, President of the Belarusian PEN, Svetlana Alexievichwas obstructed from boarding the plane in Berlin due to allegations about possessing a “bomb.”.The writer was to fly out of Wroclaw to meet with the Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk.
Repressions against the Belarusian PEN continue: on July 19, the unlawful Belarusian government introduced a new intimidation tool — seized the organization’s bank accounts. On July 22, we learned that the Belarusian Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit to eradicate PEN Belarus.
PEN Ukraine appeals to the government of Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the UN Human Rights Council and other international human rights and humanitarian organizations in a call to support and protect the Belarusian PEN. At a time when thousands of people in Belarus continue to be held behind the bars, suffer harassment and torture, Belarusian human rights defenders are particularly at risk.
The international community must ramp up pressure on the criminal authorities of Belarus to end repressions against artists, journalists and human rights organizations in Belarus.
PEN Ukraine Executive Board:
Andriy Kurkov, President of PEN Ukraine
Ola Hnatiuk, Vice President of PEN Ukraine
Ostap Slyvynsky, Vice President of PEN Ukraine
Larysa Denysenko, member of PEN Ukraine Executive Board
Tamara Hundorova, member of PEN Ukraine Executive Board
Iryna Starovoyt, member of PEN Ukraine Executive Board
Alim Aliev, member of PEN Ukraine Executive Board
Iryna Slavinska, member of PEN Ukraine Executive Board
Mark R. Stech, member of PEN Ukraine Executive Board
Tetyana Teren, Executive Director of PEN Ukraine